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How to Sort Out & Clean Closets

Updated on September 10, 2012
Messy Closet
Messy Closet | Source

Sorting out and cleaning closets can feel like such a mammoth task. You've accumulated a lot of stuff, and you aren't sure what to do with it all. It's sometimes easier to just close the door and pretend it isn't there. But the feeling you'll get when your closet is clean and nice is certainly worth the work! Here are some simple steps to cleaning out your closet.

Take Everything Out of the Closet

To sort out your closet, you first have to answer two questions: What things do you have? and What space do you have? To start this process, take everything out of your closet. Yes, everything out!

Start by gathering some bins, boxes, or laundry baskets to sort things as you go. You will need four of these boxes, labeled as follows:

  • Keep - This box is for items you definitely want to keep. No question in your mind. For clothes and shoes, these would be items that you would wear right now.
  • Trash - This box is for items that are broken, torn, stained, or do not work. Don't think twice about these. Your space and your sanity are too valuable. In fact, this box should probably be a trash bag.
  • Donate - This box is for items that you are planning to donate. See below for a list of places to donate items.
  • Not Sure - This is for items you aren't sure what to do with. You will have an opportunity later to go back through these and make a decision. This is a temporary box!

Sort Your Clothes
Sort Your Clothes | Source

Clean While It's Empty

Once you have everything out of the closet, this is your opportunity to clean. After all, have you ever seen the floor of your closet before today?

Vacuum or sweep the floors. Dust and clean the shelves with disinfecting wipes or furniture polish, depending on the material. You can even paint the walls now! Closets don't take long to paint, and a quick coat of paint can really brighten up the space.

You can also take this opportunity to get rid of old or broken hangers and hooks and invest in new ones that fit your style and your closet.

Look familair? Time to clean out the closet!

Get Rid of Things That You Don't Need or Want

Once you've cleaned the inside of the closet, it's time to organize what you've put into the boxes.

For the box or bag labeled "Trash", take it out to the trash can immediately. Don't allow yourself to second guess - get it out of your sight.

The box labeled "Donate" should go into your vehicle now. That way, the next time you're out, you can drop the items off. Getting this box out of sight also keeps you from changing your mind.

Next you'll need to go through the items in the "Not Sure" box. You should only go through these items once, and your decisions are final! Nothing is allowed back into the "Not Sure" box - everything either gets donated or kept. Here are some tips for making those tough decisions:

Donate the item:

  • If it doesn't make you feel fabulous when you wear it! Yes, I said fabulous! Better to have a closet with eight super outfits than twenty that make you feel yucky. If you don't feel great when you wear it, it doesn't deserve your mental energy when picking out clothes. It also doesn't deserve the physical space in your closet.
  • If you can't wear it right now. It doesn't matter when it fit, and it doesn't matter how much it cost when you bought it. If you can't wear it, it's taking up the space of something you can wear, and it will only upset you every time you look at it.
  • If you haven't worn or used it in the past year. Someone in need will appreciate it more than you do seeing it sitting in your closet.

When you donate items, you help others. Someone will get excited when they see the item you donated. Let that item lift someone up instead of making you sigh. You'll feel better in the long run, and you'll have space for some new fabulous items!

Tips for Organizing Your Closet

Now that your trash is at the curb and your "donate" items are in your car (and your "not sure" box is empty!), it's time to organize what's left in the Keep box.

Before you put anything back into the closet, take inventory of what you are keeping. Here are some tips for organizing these items as you put them back into your closet.

  • Organize your clothes by season (fall/winter vs spring/summer). Have one hanging bar or area for long sleeves and pants, and another area for short sleeves and shorts. Each day you'll know which section to go to in order to find appropriate clothes to wear. Everything that is an option for that season is in front of you - nothing gets ignored or lost.
  • Organize by category. Within each season's area, designate a section for casual clothes and dressy clothes.
  • Invest in good hangers for your clothes. They will help lengthen the life of an item. Use hangers with clips to hang pants and skirts as they are hung in a store. Use gripping hangers for items that slip off easily
  • Organize shoes by season also. Make sure that the shoes that fit the current season are in front, and the ones that are out of season are out of sight. Eliminate as much visual clutter as possible.
  • Have a designated place in the front of the closet to hang tomorrow's outfit the night before. Make it at the first place you look so you don't have to think in the morning!

How do you know when it's time to clean out a closet?

See results

Does this happen to you?

A Clean and Neat Closet is Worth the Effort

Sorting out and cleaning closets may take a little time, but the rewards are endless! Not only will you feel good about donating items to those in need, but you will also be astounded at how nice it is to get your clothes out of a clean, bright closet that contains only fabulous things!

Organized Closet
Organized Closet | Source


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    • profile image


      15 months ago

      This was sooo helpful. It makes cleaning my closet sound easy!

    • Amy Gillie profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy Gillie 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      That Grrl - it's great that you are able to keep on top of your closets. Good for you!

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 

      6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I don't wait until there isn't space in my closet. I'm not such a clothes horse that it would get to that point. I tidy and reorganize my closet each time we move to another house.

    • Amy Gillie profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy Gillie 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks, Nettlemere! I think the point is getting everything out so you can start fresh. Thanks for reading!

    • Nettlemere profile image


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Surprising how the simple ideas are often the best. I really liked the idea of having the 4 containers to separate stuff into as you empty it out.

    • Amy Gillie profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy Gillie 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks so much for your comments! And congrats on having an organized closet already - you're among the minority.

    • adjkp25 profile image


      6 years ago from Northern California

      Thankfully the closet I share with my wife is fairly organized but we have implemented your suggestions to aid our kids when they clean out their closets. Very good ideas to help out with a not very enjoyable task.

    • Amy Gillie profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy Gillie 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks for the great comments, Cre8tor! I think that visual clutter is disheartening. You are right about getting rid of the image.

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Robbins 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I always say, "you have to make it worse to make it better." Cleaning everything out of the closet to start is great advice. It wipes out the image of what was and allows you to see what could be. Great job!

    • Amy Gillie profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy Gillie 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      Hi Mmargie1966! Yes, I do mean fabulous! It's better to have a small amount of fab than a huge amount of yuck. Thanks for the read and vote!

    • Amy Gillie profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy Gillie 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks, Sadie14! Can you believe I actually like to clean out closets?

    • Mmargie1966 profile image


      6 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Excellent hub! But do you really mean "fabulous"? You drive a hard bargain, Amy.

      Voted up and useful!

    • Sadie14 profile image

      Brittany B 

      6 years ago from U.S.

      Great hub! These are some awesome steps to take when sorting through your items! Voted up!


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